a rethink

Many factors are driving the debate. The church is growing most of all in Africa, where the AIDS crisis is the worst. Much health care in Africa is provided by Catholic charities, whose workers, barred from providing condoms, have often spoken of being torn between church doctrine and taking concrete steps to prevent disease.

More broadly, critics of the Vatican's current policy say it is hard for the church to remain consistent on "life" issues, like its opposition to abortion and euthanasia and the death penalty, when much science says that condom use can help prevent the spread of AIDS.

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